In the Torah portion of Nasso, we learn that “all terumah — elevated gifts — that the Jewish people present as sacred offerings to the priest shall become his property.”1

Rashi2 notes:3 “R. Yishmael said: ‘Is terumah to be considered as presented to the priests — [after all,] the priest had to go after it to the granary? … [Rather,] this refers to bikkurim [the first-ripened fruits], concerning which the verse states: “you shall bring to the house of G‑d your L-rd.”4 But we know not what to do with it…. The verse here teaches us that bikkurim are to be given to a priest.’ ”

Producing fruit, especially the choice fruit presented as bikkurim , requires great effort and toil; a person must plant, sow, prune, etc. When a Jew finally gets to see the fruit of his labors, the Torah tells him that the very first and best must be given to a priest.

Since all lessons of the Torah are applicable at all times and in all places, this manner of conduct regarding a Jews’ earnings is expected of him nowadays as well.

When a Jew has the opportunity to give tzedakah (charity), he should not dwell on the fact that earning a livelihood requires great effort, and think that the first and best should thus be kept for himself. Rather, the first of his hard-earned money should be “brought to the house of G‑d” — it should be donated for tzedakah.

A person might well think to himself: If this money were going towards an institution such as a yeshiva or synagogue, or toward benefiting the public, then it would make sense to give. In this instance, however, it is going to an individual priest.

Since he himself also has needs, and concerning all Jews, the verse states:5 “You shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests,” why does he have to give the first of his hard-earned income to another? Why should that other person come before him? At the very least, why not divide the “bikkurim” into many equal parts, distributing them among many individuals — including himself?

The Torah therefore teaches us that, in order to properly know what to do with one’s “bikkurim,” one must first bring them to “G‑d’s house,” i.e., one must realize Who it was that made these “bikkurim” possible. When he does so, he will reach the proper conclusion: that, in truth, they should be given to a priest.

A person can fool himself into thinking that his own needs take precedence only when he does not understand that all his money is in fact tzedakah -money. Such a person has yet to free himself from the feeling that the money he is considering giving away belongs solely to him, coming without any assistance from Above. When a person feels that he alone is responsible for his wealth, it is difficult for him to share his bounty with another.

But if a person’s evil inclination were simply to declare that he should not give money for tzedakah , it would be ignored. Instead, the evil inclination begins with a “just” complaint: since the worker himself also has needs, let him keep some of the first of his hard-earned money for himself — after all, that too can rightfully be considered tzedakah.

But if a person is intent on “bringing it to the house of G‑d, your L-rd,” he will take it as a given that “bikkurim,” the first and best of his fruits, should be given to others, and not think of taking any for himself, just as he would never dream of taking other money designated for tzedakah.

When a Jew acts in this manner, he can be assured of the blessing that Rashi speaks of in the verse that follows:6 “He that gives to the priest ‘the gifts that are coming to him … shall be blessed with great wealth.’ ”

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VIII, pp. 29-40